USC graduate starts online marketing agency amid the pandemic

Mini Dreamers, one of icepop’s clients, is an online children’s clothing store founded by a USC alumna in 2016. Banafsheha has been helping the company out for nearly three years, but took on an official role once icepop was founded last year. (Cari Spencer/Daily Trojan)

When the pandemic hit and many businesses moved online to mitigate the loss of in-person clientele, USC alumnus Jordan Banafsheha knew it was time to start the online advertising agency he had dreamed about. Despite the negatives of the new pandemic world, he said he was provided with a surprising opportunity: a niche for entrepreneurship. 

Icepop, a marketing and advertising company located in Los Angeles founded by Banafsheha in May, is helping companies grow their online presence.

After graduation, Banafsheha spent several years working for companies such as Tinder and later formed part of the co-founding team for social shopping platform Verishop. Receiving an overflow of messages from people who were referred to Banafsheha for help with creating an online platform, he decided to leave Verishop to focus on creating his agency full time.

With a tagline of “Grow Right,” icepop looks to help companies authentically increase their internet presence, Banafsheha said. This growth is achieved in a way that is personalized to each client, contrary to what he said many might believe about marketing. 

“A lot of people like to think that advertising is a playbook, and we just follow the same playbook for every account. It’s definitely not like that,” Banafsheha said. “Every company has a different amount of data, has a different brand voice, has a different customer group that they’re going after. Every client we take on, it’s kind of like ‘Is this the right fit for us?’ ‘Do we think we can deliver?’ ‘Do we think that we can craft a story that’s unique to them?’”

Icepop focuses on advertising through three main areas: paid social advertising, paid search advertising and organic search listings. 

In paid social advertising, icepop markets client ads through social media platforms, including Instagram, Facebook, TikTok and Snapchat. Its other two services involve Google and Bing, with paid search advertising, displaying ads at the top of search engine results and improving organic search, allowing the company’s page to naturally appear higher on search engine results based on the relevancy to someone’s search. 

Icepop has a range of clients including Madhappy, a streetwear lifestyle brand based in Los Angeles, and Euka, a wellness brand that has employed other big marketing agencies like 72andSunny, Banfasheha said. 

“Just being at the table with these types of companies at such an early stage of our company is really cool,” Banafsheha said. 

Another one of icepop’s clients is Mini Dreamers — a “one-stop shop” for all of the trendiest clothing for babies and kids — founded by Melody Nabati, a 2008 alumna, in 2016. Although she felt she had sufficient resources to make Mini Dreamers successful and received a lot of positive responses from the community when she first opened her business, Nabati said she needed help with growing Mini Dreamer’s online visibility.

Mini Dreamers, a current client of icepop who worked with Banafsheha for nearly three years before icepop’s official start, has grown almost four times from what it was before, Nabati said. 

“I’m really happy with the amount, the time, the dedication, [Banafsheha’s] commitment to our business,” Nabati said. “He’s really knowledgeable about what he does. And it’s been such a great asset to the company, especially during COVID.”

Garrette Wann, a contract worker for icepop, is directly involved in the creative aspect for the company — helping create media and videos for clients. Together, Wann and Banafsheha produce and market videos that generate revenue for clients. Working for icepop for nearly a year, Wann said he consistently sees icepop live up to their client’s marketing goals. 

“It’s a really good company,” Wann said. “I love working with them. They do really good by their clients, and they make sure you know what they’re going to do.”

Although the agency is still in its beginning years, Banafsheha said he hopes it becomes one of L.A.’s top advertising agencies within the next five years. Banafsheha also said, as icepop works with more businesses, he looks to branch the company’s services into investing and running performance markets. 

Banafsheha said some of the businesses who come to icepop have asked him to invest in or advise their company — an area he is open to as icepop grows. 

“As our business grows and we become bigger, I would love for us to have a very nice portfolio of brands that we also invest in and run their performance marketing,” Banafsheha said. “We’re more than just a service to them. We’re also a partner to them.”

Banafsheha said he had a collection of experiences at USC that helped contribute to his decision to create icepop, including an internship through USC TAMID, an organization that provides business-minded students with hands-on consulting and investing. 

For Banafsheha’s internship he traveled to Israel where he learned about Facebook advertising and paid online advertising. 

“If it wasn’t for that experience, I probably wouldn’t have learned how to do a lot of this stuff I do now,” Banafsheha said. 

The USC Blackstone Launchpad Community also helped Banafsheha grow his network and connections. As a result of his success with icepop and entrepreneurial experience, Banafsheha has given speeches about his background and company for entrepreneurship classes each semester since he graduated, allowing him to further connect with the USC community. 

Banafsheha said Anthony Borquez, one of the professors who often has him as a class guest, is a great mentor and has been able to introduce him to many students who have helped connect him with people who need icepop’s services. 

The relevance of media and marketing to modern society, as well as the current global pandemic, has created an environment that Banafsheha said he believes has allowed him to create a successful agency, benefiting both the exposure and success of all of his clients. 

“If it wasn’t for the pandemic, I don’t know if I would have started my agency this quickly; I might have waited another year or two,” Banafsheha said. “But because so many businesses were looking for people to help them advertise on Facebook and set up their Shopify and all those things, the demand was so big that it basically helped me make that decision faster.” 

Looking forward, Banafsheha said he hopes to hire USC students as employees and interns. Not only does Banafsheha foresee his agency’s growing success in the near future, but he encourages USC students to reach out and harness their own dreams of entrepreneurship as well.

“I want us to be, if not the best, one of the top three agencies in Los Angeles,” Banafsheha said. “When people think of advertising online, on social media, on Google growing their business, I want us to be in those top ranks. And I think we’re making headway.”

Correction: A previous version of this article misstated icepop’s client as Yukka, rather than the wellness brand Euka. A previous version also misidentified USC professor Anthony Borquez as Anthony Cortez. The Daily Trojan regrets this error.